Junior reviewers put GeoPalz pedometer, website through the paces

Last year, SNEWS told you about GeoPalz, a decorative pedometer and online game that allows users to earn points through physical activity. We asked some pint-sized testers to take the GeoPalz concept for a spin to get real-world feedback. See what they had to say and how that might apply to anybody with an eye on appealing to kids.
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Back in June, SNEWS told you about GeoPalz, a decorative pedometer and online game that allows users to earn points through physical activity. Since we are adults -- or think we are! -- we asked some pint-sized testers to take the GeoPalz for a spin to get real-world feedback.



With a message of “Walk to Win,” kids track their steps with the pedometers and log them at GeoPalz’s website (www.geopalz.com) to redeem activity-oriented products, like Frisbees, jump ropes, baseball bats, footballs, as well as bikes and skateboards.

“We’re trying to get kids off the couch and out moving around and trying to educate them at the same time,” Rich Schmelzer, CEO of GeoPalz, told SNEWS® in a June 9, 2010, article. “The (pedometer) was designed specifically to get kids motivated to become more physically active by converting activity into currency that can be redeemed for activity-based products from our website.”

The company offers 12 different pedometer styles, from a ladybug and a heart to princesses and skulls. Pedometers retail for $19.99 and include registration on the website.

We enlisted five kids, ages 6 to 14, all of whom were described by their parents as being highly active already. So how did the GeoPalz fare? See what our testers and their parents had to say…

All our testers said they were no issues with the “cool factor.” Annika, who is 7 years old, said she liked the styling of the unit, while Jonathan, 8, and Katlyn, 12, didn’t want to wear them to school, primarily due to a fear that other kids would grab it and break it.

Enforcement

Most parents told us the kids were initially excited to receive the pedometers and get started, but as time progressed, usually about two weeks, they needed reminders to use the pedometer and log in their steps. Parents soon found they took on the role of “enforcer” to get their children to wear them and log in accumulated steps.

“Their interest for whatever reason seemed to wane a bit, and I found myself having to provide them with almost daily reminders to log their steps,” said Pete Dzwilewski, dad of Jonathan, 8, and Katlyn, 12. “We went to Yosemite over the weekend and did a lot of hiking -- Jonathan brought it, but forgot to wear it. From my perspective, it will take a lot of parental reinforcement.”

Also, three of our testers thought the pedometer was too bulky to wear during activities, like soccer. To circumvent that, one 7-year-old tester preferred to clip it to her backpack – although we know it won’t log steps accurately that way.

Periodically, the testers encountered log-in problems and asked for assistance from their parents. Glitches included buttons that went to blank screen pages and trying to log in accumulated steps from multiple days.

“There are some programming issues that need to be resolved as the accuracy of their entries didn’t translate into accurate depiction of their mileage,” noted Jim Vickland, dad of Benjamin, 6, and Elise, 14.

Dzwilewski added, “After not logging his steps for a while, Jonathan entered his and got a message asking why he hadn’t been in the system for 14 days. I was also sent an email regarding his entering what appeared to be a large number of steps for a particular day -- he tried to enter his steps that he’d take for about a two- to three-day period.”

Parents did observe that interest tapered off with time as kids didn’t keep up with the daily maintenance that GeoPalz requires.

“Once she started to forget to log her steps on the site or forget to take the pedometer with her when she left the house, her interest seemed to fall off rapidly. Once it was out of her regular routine, it was forgotten,” Anders Bjork said of Annika, 7.

Prized prizes

When it came to the prizes, results were mixed. One tester earned a water bottle, but 14-year-old Elise was disappointed that the prizes weren’t entirely “free.” That is, she’d have to spend her hard-earned dollars to pay for the shipping to get what she thought would cost her “nothing” if she participated.

Also, when the process of accumulating prizes was explained to them, many parents noted it became a daunting task and caused many of the kids to drop off.

“They were motivated to receive the pedometer, but the prize incentive was larger at least until they realized they were probably not going to receive a prize,” said Vickland. “Their biggest motivation is toward exercise without other external or material rewards anyway, so its not like these two are couch potatoes or have returned to being couch potatoes. They’re active kids to start with and maybe not targets for this type of program.”



Making it better


While all the parents agreed the GeoPalz pedometers and website concept were great tools for kids to try and motivate them to become more active, they offered a few suggestions to improve the process and concept. In fact, other brands and products considering trying to attract kids can glean a few tips too.

>> Enhance the website. “Annika found the website to be a bit simplistic when compared to some of the other sites she visits, and specifically asked why there weren’t more games and activities,” said Bjork. “I suppose the whole point is to get the kids off the computer and outside, but perhaps (GeoPalz) could consider some brief tie-ins that would work with the product philosophy…maybe an online persona that would represent their GeoPalz character? Something for rainy days?”



>> More pedometer style choices.
“I felt there could be better or more wholesome choices on the GeoPalz designs themselves (on the boy side). It was either something more ‘cutsie’ or a skateboarder with Band-Aids or skull and cross-bones…maybe a runner, hiker or sports figures other than a skateboarder since it’s a pedometer,” said Vickland.

>> Allow kids to link to their friends online through the GeoPalz website. “By doing this, you are going to raise the awareness of GeoPalz, but more importantly, get the kids to perhaps compete with each other and be interested in one another’s progress. If they know they will be talking about it with their friends at recess, they might be more likely to remember to take the pedometer with them when they leave the house,” said Bjork.

He added that the concept was interesting, but required some responsibility on the child’s part to be successful. He added that he thought either Annika’s age or maturity level—or both—were factors in the 7-year-old’s use and failure to fully adopt GeoPalz into her routine.

“Remembering to take the pedometer with them each day; remembering to log their steps…sometimes, it is just the ‘one more thing’ that is easy to forget or overlook unless it becomes part of their regimen. I would probably have been more of an ‘enforcer’ if I thought that she wasn’t already getting enough exercise.”

--Wendy Geister

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